Meeting documents

Education and Learning Scrutiny Committee
Friday, 26th January, 2018 10.00 am

Date: Friday 26th January 2018 Time: 10.00 a.m. Place: Council Chamber, Civic Centre

Please note: all Minutes are subject to approval at the next Meeting

PresentAndWithReport toReport of
Item/Resolution Status Action
Tudalen Glawr Agenda Gymraeg/Welsh Agenda Coversheet (173K/bytes)

The Chair reported that Councillor P. Baldwin's mother had sadly passed away and the Committee stood as a mark of respect.


It was noted that no requests had been received for the simultaneous translation service.


Apologies for absence were received from Councillors P. Baldwin, P. Edwards, L. Elias, S. Healy and J. Hill


There were no declarations of interest or dispensations reported.

Minutes (290K/bytes)
Cofnodion (225K/bytes)

The Minutes of the Education & Learning Scrutiny Committee held on 15th December, 2017 were submitted, whereupon:-

The Chair reported that the minutes had not been ratified by Council on the 25th January, 2017 as they had not been submitted to the Scrutiny Committee until today.

Page 8 - Pupil Attendance and Exclusions Data

A Member referred to the discussion that had taken place regarding this item and expressed concern that the minutes did not adequately reflect the level of challenge that was given to the report, and that a number of key points of debate had been omitted.

He had questioned whether the number of exclusions was proportionate to the school population, and how many incidents within schools were caused by pupils who had been relocated due to exclusion. He had also made the point that Schools did not take exclusions lightly, and also when re-introducing pupils back into School, the Authority had a duty of care to ensure a safe environment for other pupils and staff.

RESOLVED, subject to the foregoing, that the Minutes be accepted as a true record of proceedings.

Action Sheet (49K/bytes)
Attachment 1 (42K/bytes)
Attachment 2 (30K/bytes)
Attachment 3 (105K/bytes)
Attachment 4 (63K/bytes)

The Action Sheet arising from the Education & Learning Scrutiny Committee held on 15th December, 2017 was submitted.

RESOLVED that the Action Sheet be noted and the information contained therein be acknowledged.

Report (204K/bytes)
Appendix A (2M/bytes)
Appendix B (476K/bytes)
Appendix C (2M/bytes)

Consideration was given to the report of the Managing Director EAS and the Corporate Director which was presented to seek Members views on the Draft EAS Business Plan 2018-2021 and the Local Authority Annex 2018-2019.

The EAS representative presented the Draft EAS Business Plan which was an overarching regional plan. Details of delivery on behalf of the Local Authority were not included at this stage, and this would follow in due course. Feedback on the priorities set out in the Draft Business Plan was required by the middle of February 2017, and this was welcome verbally or in written format.

He said whilst this was a 3 year plan finance would come in on an annual basis, however, Welsh Government had yet to confirm the figures for next year.

In terms of judgement on progress set out in the table at section 2.2, he said not all actions would have an immediate impact on end of key stage outcomes, and these judgements matched those predicated by the EAS in its self-evaluation. It was critical that the EAS work with its partners and school leaders in supporting schools to secure school improvement.

He referred to section 2.6 which highlighted the main focus for improvement for 2018/19, and said one of the key points for securing improvements and outcomes was to continue to improve the quality of leadership, teaching and learning particularly within the secondary phase, but also supporting schools to ensure the effective development of pupil skills at all phases. Finally, the further development of the regional professional learning opportunities in line with national approach, and developing the self-evaluation system and support each other to improve, rather than continue with external support.

In terms of overall pupil performance for Key Stage 4, he confirmed that a detailed report would be submitted to the next Scrutiny Committee, and also a report on the Improving Schools Programme.

He pointed out that the percentage of schools judged at least good for current performance had increased since 2014 to 60%, and schools judged at least good for prospects for improvement had also increased to 80%. There were no unsatisfactory inspections in 2016/17.

The percentage of primary schools categorised green had almost doubled to 29% in 2017/18. However, in relation to secondary schools Tredegar was 1 of only 3 schools categorised green out of 35 secondary schools in the region.

He referred to the risks highlighted at section 3.1 and said these did not reflect the current situation, but stressed the importance of the LA and EAS working together in partnership to challenge schools.

He concluded that the EAS was working with a reducing budget. The EIG had reduced by 14% from 2014 which equated to 200k worth of funding. Staffing within the EAS had also reduced by 40% since 2012, however, capacity had increased with greater use of expertise within schools.

The Corporate Director of Education said the plan focussed on the need to raise aspirations and accelerated improvement in pupil outcomes, improve quality of teaching and leadership and build a self-improving system, and these priorities were clearly articulated within the business plan. She pointed out that these were at the core of the Vision Statement for Education, i.e. school led effective partnership and greater autonomy in light of the fact that progressively schools would have greater responsibility for national funding.

She said it was important to note that not all actions would have an immediate impact on end of key stage, however, it states the importance of the role of school leaders and governing bodies in holding leaders to account and working closely with the LA to secure school improvement in an accelerated way, and she was very encouraged to see strong progress had been made with the priority for a self-improving
school system.

The Corporate Director said improvements were needed, and the LA would continue to require a strong partnership commitment from school leaders as Blaenau Gwent make full use of statutory powers as and when appropriate.

In response to a question raised by a Member regarding LA control of a governing body in one school, the Corporate Director explained that the LA was governed by the School Standards and Organisation Act Wales (2013) which set out grounds whereby the Council was duty bound to intervene in the school should those grounds be triggered. She said one of the main grounds that applied in the two schools where the Council was currently intervening in was that standards were unacceptably low, and she was confident that the powers invested in the Council to intervene in the identified school was justified.

In relation to the Key Stage results being finalised, a Member said this would be an appropriate time to receive a Members' Briefing Session on School Categorisation and also issues of Schools Causing Concern in order for Members to have a full understanding of the process.

The Corporate Director confirmed that a report on the Improving Schools Programme would be submitted to Scrutiny in due course and would provide an overview of progress made by schools causing concern. However, she clarified that the Members' Briefing session would include the Schools Causing Concern Policy, along with the grounds for intervention in accordance with the Act; and also the Schools Categorisation process and extent of progress made.

RESOLVED accordingly.

A Co-opted Member referred to P.112 of the business plan and expressed concern that the draft categorisation for 2017/18 for St. Mary's RC Primary School was showing 'amber', when in fact it had progressed to 'yellow'.

The EAS representative confirmed that the school had progressed to a 'yellow' categorisation.

The Chair asked that this information be taken off the Council's website, and a letter of apology be sent to the School.

The Corporate Director confirmed that the School had been removed from follow-up status by Estyn because good progress had been made, however, she pointed out that in-year changes within school categorisation may occur moving forward.

The Co-opted Member also referred to the Regional Ambition highlighted at section 2.7 of the report, namely to build an effective network of professionals to work together to improve leadership, teaching and learning. He understood that school-to-school working was very successful and effective, but questioned whether this was putting pressure on those schools providing support to others, and whether this approach was sustainable.

In response the EAS representative said it was hoped that as the system improved there would be a wider selection of schools to provide support, and there was significant funding available to support them to ensure their standards and capacity were not adversely affected.

A Member said the self-improving schools system was working well, but expressed concern that the staff provided to cover staff working with other schools was not always at the same level of experience.

The Corporate Director said many of our green schools were in high demand, and many of our Headteachers were Estyn Inspectors, and some were Challenge Advisors in other LA's, as well as supporting other schools. She said it was about getting the right balance.

The Member then referred to the risk implications highlighted at section 3 of the report, namely schools not held to account in a timely manner. He felt that this sent out the wrong message to schools, and that we should be looking at schools that are being challenged, and if necessary hold them to account. He also asked what support the EAS had put in place for schools in light of the changes to the Estyn Inspection Framework.

The EAS Representative confirmed that all Local Authorities and Secondary Headteachers had been briefed on the new arrangements, and it was also being rolled out to the primary sector. The main change was the focus on the way schools manage effective skills developments. In terms of the risk implications, he said this was not a reflection of the current situation, but risks to delivery of the business plan in the event of those points not being adhered to.

The Chair said the implications of the FSM element should be highlighted as a risk. He also referred to the gender gap and said more should be done to challenge this at primary school level.

In relation to the gender gap, the Corporate Director explained that girls in Blaenau Gwent at age 7, 11 and 14 were improving and performing at a higher level than girls across Wales, and the gap was widening because boys were not improving at the same rate. However, she confirmed that this had been highlighted as a priority within the self-evaluation report.

In response to the Chair's comments on the implications of FSM, the Corporate Director said FSM pupils in Blaenau Gwent performed better than FSM pupils across Wales at KS2 & 3. However, our non-FSM pupils were not performing as well as non-FSM pupils in Wales and this had also been highlighted as a priority moving forward.

FURTHER RESOLVED to recommend that the report be accepted; and

i. Members acknowledge the main strengths and areas for development within Blaenau Gwent, as detailed in LA Annex, and how LA services can be aligned to meet the ambitious targets within the business plan, therefore ensuring all pupils meet their full potential; and

ii. A Members' Briefing Session be arranged on the Schools Causing Concern Policy and the grounds for intervention in accordance with the Act; and also the Schools Categorisation process and extent of progress made.

Report (158K/bytes)
Appendix 2 (830K/bytes)
Appendix 3 (139K/bytes)

Consideration was given to the report of the Head of Education Transformation & Performance which provided an update on the progress and impact of the Youth Service, using the recently published statistics report 'Youth Work in Wales 2016-2017' as a comparison.

Councillor H. McCarthy left the meeting at this juncture.

The Youth Service Manager spoke to the report and highlighted points contained therein. Significant progress had been made with the Youth Service whose work contributed to a number of priority areas, in particular the Inclusion Team and the Youth Engagement and Progression Framework. She was also pleased to report that the effective use of external funding had resulted in maintaining the level of reach and accreditation outcomes and reducing the number of NEETs to the lowest recorded.

She also reported that organisations were working well together through improved co-ordination of Youth Support Services and the Raising Aspirations Group to provide appropriate and necessary support for young people. The Youth Service was reliant on external grants, however, securing ESF until 2022 provided some stability moving forward, which meant that the most vulnerable young people in the community would have continuity of support until the programme ended.

A Member commended the work of the Youth Service, and said that the reduction of community policing and the end of Communities First had impacted on their workload. He also expressed concern that the 347,367 core youth service budget for Blaeanu Gwent was the second lowest in Wales, and while he commended the additional funding obtained by the leadership team, he said this was a risk as this level of funding needed to be sustained to continue the excellent work of the Youth Service. In relation to NEETs, he asked the Officer whether there were any case studies available.

In response the Officer said there were case studies of young people that we started working with in 2013 and their positive outcomes now, but there was also a difference in terms of where the Service was now compared to 2013. She said the reality was we are talking about all young people, anybody who may have things going on in their lives and may need support to reach their full potential. She said early identification was critical and having the processes in place to support those youngsters.

In response to questions raised by Members regarding the possibility of running a youth centre provision within their Wards, the Officer reported that two out-reach workers had recently been appointed to work in Brynmawr and Tredegar, and also three part-time workers to target 'hot-spot' areas. However, if Members were aware of any areas or activities of concern they should contact the Police to make them aware, or contact the Youth Service directly.

In terms of new youth centre facilities she said there were currently no resources available, however, they would provide support and assistance to organisations wishing to establish such facilities.

A brief discussion ensued regarding the implications of Brexit on funding, and the Officer confirmed that the Welsh Government's Youth Engagement and Progression Framework had secured sustainability for the Youth Service work linked to the 'brokerage' element until 2022. However, she confirmed that work was already underway to provide robust evidence for the needs of Blaenau Gwent in readiness for future funding opportunities beyond 2022.

RESOLVED to recommend that the report be accepted and the Scrutiny Committee:

i. Acknowledge the contribution of the Youth Service in supporting young people's wellbeing, in achieving accredited outcomes and in reducing the numbers of young people becoming NEET;

ii. Recognise that future funding has been identified to secure the targeted area of work until 2022; and

iii. Agree to scrutinise the performance of the Youth Service via annual monitoring reports.

Report (146K/bytes)

Consideration was given to the report of the Corporate Director and Lead Officer for Inclusion which was presented to provide Members with an overview of EOTAS provision, the progress of pupils in Canolfan Yr Afon and the progress of Blaenau Gwent pupils in Out of County independent special school placements and to provide opportunity for Members to scrutinise and evaluate arrangements to support some of our most vulnerable learners in Blaenau Gwent.

The Inclusion Lead Officer spoke to the report which had been submitted following a request from the Scrutiny Committee. He said appropriate provision was in place to meet the needs of our most challenging and complex pupils, and effective monitoring and challenge was in place for pupils placed in our Blaenau Gwent EOTAS provision (PRU). He also confirmed that monitoring and challenge to out of county providers had improved and would improve further.

The Chair referred to the end of key stage data, and asked what was being done to improve the outcomes for pupils in the PRU at Key Stages 3 & 4.

The Officer said it was about expanding the thinking away from the traditional curriculum, and providing a broader more bespoke curriculum for those pupils who struggled academically, and support them to achieve good results in other areas.

In response to a question raised by a Member, the Officer confirmed that significant improvement had been made in terms of links with the Youth Service, and this year the Inclusion Team had been working closely with the Youth Service on joint ventures. Data was coming through and a shared understanding particularly in Key Stages 3 & 4.

The Youth Service Manager confirmed that through Inspire to Achieve a youth worker had been designated to the PRU, and also two transition workers funded by Inspire to Achieve to work with young people in the PRU setting to provide support during transition from the PRU.

In terms of transition from the PRU to a college setting, a Member pointed out that the college had a duty of care for its other students, and felt that more work was needed in relation to transition arrangements.

The Youth Service Manager said the transition work had only started this year within the PRU, but assured that it was moving in the right direction.

The Chair asked whether capacity should be highlighted as a risk in the event of the facility being full.

In response the Inclusion Lead Officer said continuation of the provision was critical, and there was work to be done to prevent the 'revolving door' aspect. He confirmed that they were working with schools and other agencies to manage that and provide support, but also ensure that the focus remained on pupil needs.

RESOLVED to recommend that the report be accepted and the Scrutiny Committee:

i. Acknowledge the information contained in the report;

ii. Note any areas for improvement, to include transition arrangements; and

iii. And where further improvement was required, seek assurance from Officers that these areas would be addressed.

Agenda Items (50K/bytes)

Consideration was given to the list of draft Agenda Items for the next meeting to be held on 9th March, 2018; namely

- School Categorisation 2017/2018
- Summary of School Inspection Outcomes, Autumn Term 2017
- Progress Towards Targets - All Schools
- Blaenau Gwent Admissions Policy for Nursery and statutory Education 2019-2020
- Final Key Stage 4 Performance 2016-17
- Improving Schools Programme

RESOLVED that the items be agreed.